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Saturday, February 24, 2024

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Five Takeaways From The 2024 Oscar Nominations

Every Oscar pundit, online fan, and professional ranter has a share of big takeaways about the Oscar nominations. Nonetheless, here are five observations that might have slid under the cracks of the most publicized talking points – for the moment.

1. Directors Still Only Like A Certain “Type” Of Female Nominee

For all the outrage and/or joy over “Barbie’s” Greta Gerwig missing Best Director, and for all the cheers over “Anatomy of a Fall’s” Justine Triet preventing an all-male Best Director lineup anyway, these results fall under a different kind of insidious pattern.

Not only did Gerwig get overlooked for Best Director, but “Past Lives” director Celine Song seemingly never got considered to be her “replacement” nominee instead of Triet, even though both Song and Gerwig were among the top five nominated directors with critics/precursors by a mile. Just as “Barbie” may have been dismissed for being a blockbuster, a “toy commercial,” a lighthearted feminist film, or all of the above, perhaps Song was also similarly dismissed because “Past Lives” is a lighter kind of romantic drama more likely to be shrugged off by certain types of male voters – unlike a courtroom mystery/psychological drama such as “Anatomy of a Fall.”

But whenever female directors get blessed by these particular kinds of voters, it is usually for a certain kind of movie – not the “Barbie” or “Past Lives” kind. After all, Kathryn Bigelow, Chloe Zhao, and Jane Campion all won for a war movie, a sweeping road drama about American Nomads, and a dark Western character study. Emerald Fennell’s “Promising Young Woman” was more overly feminine to a subversive degree, yet who knows if it would have been so embraced without those darker subversions – or with a different kind of ending. And while Sofia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation” was a more intimate drama, being a Coppola and having Bill Murray and a young Scarlett Johansson in her corner helped a fair deal too.

Ironically, Gerwig herself is a rare exception with her still only Director nomination for “Lady Bird,” as perhaps is Campion for her first nomination with “The Piano.” Otherwise, it is still clear that on the off chance male director voters let a female director into the Oscars, most of the time, they must usually make something more serious, tougher, and darker – and less unapologetically feminine – than a “Past Lives,” “Little Women” or “Barbie” before they at least get close to breaking through.

2. “Poor Things,” “Anatomy Of A Fall” & “American Fiction” Are The Other Big Winners Of The Morning

On the off chance Best Picture is still in doubt, something other than “Oppenheimer” needed to make a bigger splash than expected on nomination morning, or at least avoid a massive red flag snub. As it stands, only three films with any big or slim aspirations for an upset came close to that kind of showing.

Barbie” obviously wasn’t one of them, not just for Gerwig’s Director snub but for Margot Robbie’s Best Actress miss as well, despite America Ferrera’s early Best Supporting Actress surprise suggesting a much bigger morning. “The Holdovers” also stumbled a bit by not having Alexander Payne or Dominic Sessa sneak into Best Director or Best Supporting Actor, as Best Editing was its only semi-surprise appearance of the day. And “Killers of the Flower Moon” also hit a wall with snubs for Leonardo DiCaprio and for Best Adapted Screenplay, perhaps further proving that it really is a Lily Gladstone or bust kind of movie.

Only three films with any possible path to upsetting “Oppenheimer” either overperformed or avoided really damaging snubs. “Poor Things” didn’t have a perfect day since Willem Dafoe didn’t join Mark Ruffalo in Best Supporting Actor, and it also missed a Visual Effects nomination. Yet keeping Yorgos Lanthimos in Best Director and getting the second-highest nomination tally of the morning with 11 keeps it at least in the top three for the moment. “Anatomy of a Fall” also perhaps cemented itself in the top five with nominations for Triet, Sandra Huller, and Best Editing, although sneaking Milo Machado Graner into Supporting Actor might have made a more stunning statement.

If a movie really overperformed, it might have been “American Fiction,” with nominations for Sterling K. Brown and Best Score to go with its expected Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay nominations. With a SAG ensemble victory not out of the question and Adapted Screenplay very much up for grabs, maybe “American Fiction” can still write a surprise twist ending or two if it keeps peaking at the right time.

3. The Top 10 Dominated Beyond Best Picture

Much has been made about how the 10 Best Picture nominees were far ahead of everyone else in the end. But that isn’t just reflected in how no one else came close to breaking in Best Picture.

In the other seven above-the-line categories, pretty much everything was dominated by “Oppenheimer, “Poor Things,” “Barbie,” “Killers of the Flower Moon,” “Anatomy of a Fall,” “The Holdovers,” “Maestro,” “American Fiction,” “Past Lives” and “The Zone of Interest” as well. In fact, only five of the 45 major nominations were from outside of those ten movies – Colman Domingo’s Best Actor nomination for “Rustin,” Danielle Brooks’ Best Supporting Actress nom for “The Color Purple,” “Nyad’s” highly debated double nominations for Annette Bening and Jodie Foster, and a lone Screenplay nomination for “May December” that it likely barely held onto.

That is a record-setting lack of spreading the wealth in this era, rivaled only by 2010 and 2013’s mere six major nominations for non-Best Picture films. That, perhaps more than the PGA and Oscar top 10 matching perfectly for the first time ever, reflects just how lopsided this year ultimately became.

4. This May Be The Most Acclaimed Best Picture Field Ever

In most any other year, such a stranglehold by the Best Picture nominees would get serious criticism, at least regarding the bubble films. However, although the likes of “All of Us Strangers,” “May December” and more populist films like “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” “Saltburn,” “The Color Purple” and “The Iron Claw” were left out, there isn’t a massive amount of griping about who did get in for once – and their reviews reflect that.

All told, this may very well be the best-reviewed Best Picture field in the expanded era, even with “Maestro” sticking out like a sore thumb compared to the rest. Otherwise, eight movies scored over 90 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, eight movies that scored above an 8.0 average rating, and nine that scored 80 or above on MetaCritic. For that matter, seven movies scored at or above an 8.5 average rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which is a record for this era – and no nominees had a Tomatometer score under 80 percent for only the sixth time ever.

If “All of Us Strangers” had gotten in instead of “Maestro,” there would be no doubt that this is our generation’s most critically acclaimed Best Picture field. At the least, it is a fair difference from last year when “Elvis” and “Triangle of Sadness” weighed down the field’s overall scores, and an even more significant difference from years like 2011 and 2018 when multiple mixed reviewed at best films got in.

Maybe not everyone agrees with the level of praise for all the ten nominees. However, this is one rare year where such people would be the outliers instead of the norm.

5. The Golden Globes Got Almost All Of It Right

Regarding major televised precursors like the Golden Globes, the Critics Choice Awards, the SAG Awards, and BAFTA, the Globes nominations are usually the most mocked and/or the most different from the Academy. Yet this year, the Golden Globes turned out to be the most dead-on forecasters of the season, all the way back in December.

Way back then, the Globes recognized every eventual Oscar-nominated actor except for Brown and Ferrera, in contrast to how they missed six eventually nominated actors last year. Moreover, this is the first time in the expanded era that every Best Picture nominee got into the Globes Comedy and Drama Best Picture categories – not counting 2018 when “Roma” was only eligible for Best Foreign Language Film.

Like last year, the Globes only picked three eventual Best Director nominees, only missing Triet and Jonathan Glazer. Yet besides that, the new Globes voting body got a lot of praise back then – if only by comparison to past years – for choosing different nominees than usual. But now, they can also be recognized as very early prophets, at least compared to the Critics’ Choice, SAG, and BAFTA.

No one would have expected that back in December, and it may actually be better than most of the surprises – or lack thereof – we did get in late January. Either way, once the dust settles from Oscar nomination morning, it will soon be time to turn the page and ponder what surprises – or lack thereof – are coming on Oscar night to top it.

What did you think of the Oscar nominations yesterday? Why were your big takeaways from the nominations? Please let us know in the comments section below or on Next Best Picture’s Twitter account. Also, please check out their latest Oscar winner predictions here and the 2023 precursor awards tally here.

You can follow Robert and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars & Film on Twitter at @Robertdoc1984

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